How PLL Dads Balance Playing Careers and Family Time


Matt Abbott had his young son there in Atlanta to watch him play for the first time.

Joel White walked off the field in Atlanta disappointed. It was the second weekend of the 2021 Premier Lacrosse League season, and his Chrome team was outscored 5-1 in the fourth quarter and fell to the Waterdogs, the team’s second loss in as many games to start the new year.

When he got to the sidelines, however, the loss wasn’t eating at him. Instead, his wife, Kelsey, handed him their son, Macklin, who is nine months old. Having his young son in his arms, wearing a t-shirt made by Kelsey with Chrome on the front and his name and number on the back, changed his emotions.

“Perspective is the best word,” White said. “To be able to go over and see him, and he’s smiling and been out in the heat quote-unquote ‘watching’ us play, it’s incredible. It’s very easy to flip that switch. It’s something, I knew I could do it, but didn’t know how it could go. It’s important. That’s the biggest thing. It’s him first and Kelsey first. I’m sure after some of those losses throughout the years, I wasn’t the same way with Kelsey that I was with Macklin, but it’s a different perspective to switch into dad mode. It’s fun to do that and see him and have him cheer me up after a tough loss.”

People will often say the lacrosse community is a small one, but the community of dads playing in the PLL is even smaller. Players like White, Matt Abbott, Kyle Harrison, Brodie Merrill and Lyle Thompson balance playing professional lacrosse and traveling on weekends during the summer with daddy duty.

White and Abbott are new parents; White’s son, Macklin, was born in September 2020, and Abbott’s son, Landen, was born in May 2020. Becoming dads immediately impacted their lacrosse careers, as neither played in their respective 2020 bubbles. While White also was starting a new job over the summer, both he and Abbott said their families factored heavily into their decisions to take a season off.

“At first, you think it’s a tough decision, but it wasn’t,” White said. “It was unfortunate, and I was bummed to not be with the team, but I was happy to be starting my job off on the right foot in medical sales and also being there for Kelsey.”

“I didn’t feel like going away for 10 days of lacrosse and two weeks of quarantine was the right thing to do,” Abbott added. “This was the first season I missed in my life. It was a different feeling but a right one.”

After being home with their new families throughout the summer and fall, White and Abbott talked about how difficult it was to go to training camp and leave their sons for the first time for an extended period. It was a whirlwind of emotions for Abbott, whose son took his first steps two days before he left to join the Whipsnakes for training camp at Gillette Stadium.

That fear of not being with your children is something Kyle Harrison has dealt with for the past six years, and he said it does not get any easier.

“Summer is the best time,” he said. “They’re not in school. They’re at the pool or beach, and you’re missing it.”

Harrison didn’t try to pretend that even though his children are a little older — Brooke is 6 years old and Smith is 4 years old — he had it all figured out. He said balancing parenting and playing professionally is “exhausting,” but he also knows it is what has to be done in order to pursue his passion.

He acknowledged that all parents have some job or time commitment they have to balance, and that if you want something bad enough, you find a way to get it all done.

“You figure out your flow,” he said. “Smith goes to school at 8 [a.m.]. I’ll work out for two hours. Then, I’ll get started with work and get through what I need to get through.

“You schedule calls for when you’re in the car. You get it all done, and evening comes. You have family time, tubby time, reading time, you go to sleep and do it all over again.”

Playing and parenting takes sacrifice and proper time management, but maybe most importantly, it takes a supportive partner.

“First and foremost, with Kelsey and how she has, for the past 10 years, always supported me leaving every weekend,” White said. “It’s definitely tough for the significant others and families. I have to applaud Kelsey because she’s been super supportive of me playing in the NLL and PLL and formerly MLL. To stick with me through that and support me is something I don’t take lightly. I understand how much sacrifice she had there.”

While it’s not an easy task, it can be a very rewarding one, especially when the players get to share their experiences as a professional athlete with their children. Much like the moment White had with his son in Atlanta, Abbott and Harrison have their own special memories with their children at PLL games.

“My wife [Alida], Landen, and in-laws came to the game in Foxborough,” Abbott said. “He got to watch his first lacrosse game at a little over a year old. It’s a memory for me and my wife and the rest of us. We’ll have pictures to show him when he gets older. It meant the world to me.”

“My favorite memory from the PLL is in 2019 when Smith and Brooke were running around on Homewood Field,” Harrison said. “That place means everything to me from my days at Hopkins. Playing a game there in 2019 and having them running around on the field with me is my favorite moment. I have a picture of me and Smith walking; it’s my favorite lacrosse picture because of the location. Having my kids and wife and parents there, it’s a special moment. It’s cool to wear the jerseys and be a part of it. I would’ve never dreamed of it.”

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